PM attends reception uninvited, meets CJ
By Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani took on Tuesday a major initiative in what appeared to be an effort to defuse the judicial crisis.
He first clarified his Monday statement about the executive order restoring judges, called PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and later attended a dinner with judges of the Supreme Court.
Observers saw the flurry of activities by the prime minister as an effort to make the judiciary realise that the government was in no mood to confront it.
Mr Gilani’s initiative came against the backdrop of three days of dramatic events which began with the suspension by a special SC bench of the president’s notifications elevating LHC Chief Justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif to the Supreme Court and appointing Justice Saqib Nisar as acting chief justice in his place. Agitation by lawyers and political activists followed. And last but not least, came the opposition’s boycott of the National Assembly proceedings.
In the evening, the prime minister surprised many when he reached the Supreme Court ‘uninvited’ to attend a reception hosted by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in honour of Justice (retd) Khalilur Rehman Ramday, who retired on Jan 12.
The tug of war between the executive and the judiciary had started when the president ignored a request of the chief justice to appoint Justice Ramday as an ad hoc judge after his retirement.
The prime minister was warmly greeted by the chief justice himself. Mr Gilani later exchanged pleasantries sitting on the main dinner table. Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitzaz Ahsan, was among the occupants.
“Why did you take the trouble, you just have called us,” the chief justice said while welcoming and shaking hands with the prime minister.
Before leaving the venue after an hour, he told impatient reporters that he was here with a good gesture and to invite the chief justice. “I have asked the chief justice to consider the Prime Minister’s House his own and come over there tomorrow (Wednesday).”
He evaded a question about the president’s notifications, but when asked whether his meeting should be considered as advent of a new era of harmony between the executive and the judiciary, the prime minister said: “You will see it by 3’O clock tomorrow.” Mr Gilani said: “I have always maintained that there is no misunderstanding between us, but when it did not work I had to come myself to prove this.”
Asked if his aides were misleading him through wrong advices, he said he had already told parliament that for every mistake there was a remedy. “This is our own country and we have to work unitedly; we have differences.”
The dinner was attended by judges of the Supreme Court, Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan who retired on Feb 9, Chief Election Commissioner Hamid Ali Mirza, SCBA President Qazi Mohammad Anwar and senior lawyers S.M. Zafar, Tariq Mehmood, Khalid Anwar and Iqbal Haider.
The prime minister was served a sumptuous dinner, featuring mutton biryani and qorma, chicken tikka, fish and halwa.
Aitzaz Ahsan who, according to some people, paved the way by covertly acting as a mediator between the prime minister and the chief justice, praised the prime minister for coming over to the function. He said Mr Gilani had acted wisely and his initiative would help lower the “prevailing temperature”.
Before coming to the dinner, Mr Gilani called Nawaz Sharif and greeted him on the rejection by the Lahore High Court of an application seeking his disqualification for elections.
The prime minister assured the PML-N chief the judges’ issue would soon be resolved amicably. The government, Mr Gilani said, was committed to honouring the Charter of Democracy. “Leaders of the two parties have made great sacrifices and they will not let these go to waste.”
He also assured Mr Sharif that both the PPP and the PML-N would strive together to repeal amendments made in the Constitution by dictatorial regimes.
The government, the prime minister said, held the judiciary in high esteem and would accept decisions of courts in letter and spirit.
In the morning, the prime minister in the National Assembly backtracked from his Monday’s assertion that last year’s executive order of restoring judges still needed the parliament’s approval.